July 29, 2014

Grief work

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Lately I have been seeing Jackson.  Not for real, really, but just an image.  It's strange...how I know what he would have looked like, even though he was never outside of my tummy.  I see him as a toddler, maybe age 2 ish...he's toddling around in my visions with white blond hair and big blue eyes like Dave's.  He's got a lot of me in his face though, the shape and the lips and cheeks.  It's totally crazy.  But it's him, and I will know him when I get to Heaven.

If I get better at painting, I may try to paint this vision.

It's harder to see Lily.  Since we don't really even know if she was a she, and we only had her for 8 short weeks.  But I'm sure she would have been blond too.

I am doing things that I call "grief work".  I find that if I don't give into some outlets of grief, then it builds and becomes way too painful to live.  So, I know that if I just want to lay around in bed and think about how much life sucks, I need to find an outlet to put my grief into.  It's actual work.

A lot of the time, it's just praying and thinking about how God can use me in this, and how He is allowing me to learn and strengthen myself through this.  Sometimes I just sit and talk to Him about it, and work through the pain with Him.

Actively working through the grief helps me.  What are some other things that I do for grief work?  Reading helps a ton.  Whether it's reading other stories about moms and dads that have been through a stillbirth, or reading one of my 100s of novels I have here at home, I love getting into other lives and worlds and taking the information and working it into my life.  After every story, after every book, my world changes just a bit to integrate these new experiences into my life.

I've started painting too.  I LOOOOOOVE painting.  It's such a great creative outlet, even though I am not really that great at it.  I painted this sweet picture the other day and it ended up meaning so much to me, look...

This was just a beach scene I wanted to paint.  I found a painter that I really love and the colors she uses really speak to me, and I wanted to try to recreate that.  She uses water colors but I like acrylics, so I just used her paintings as a muse and did my own thing.  I painted the scene and started adding people and towards the end I realized that the two children I added to the picture, shown closer on the right, are my Jackson and Lily, playing in the sand.  I 100% did NOT consciously paint them, they just sort of appeared.  After I realized it was them, I added Dave and I to the chairs behind them.  Ash is laying by the ocean with a friend.

Isn't that crazy?  I didn't go into this little painting thinking of them or my sadness or anything, I just wanted to paint a beach scene with pretty colors that we could hang in our house.  BAM!  The babies made their way from my heart to the painting.  I can't wait to see what other ways they work themselves into my art!

Obviously, writing is a big part of my grief work.  I love writing about them.  It's how I share them with the world - since I can't post cute pictures and let you hold them, like a normal mom would do.  I talk about them.  I want to keep writing about them, although I think I'll get back to some of my normal posts about life and decor and DIY and the house and cooking and all that fun stuff.  I know life has to go on, and I can't keep beating the subject down.  It just hurts to move on from anything but my pain.  It hurts to leave my babies in the past.

I have an argument with myself everyday.  It sorta goes like this,

"Tina...it's not THAT big of a deal you lost your baby.  Babies.  It happens all the time to people and you just have to move the H on."

And then, "Ugh, no, life isn't supposed to go this way.  I am supposed to be pregnant still!  It IS a big deal!!  It's the saddest thing that has ever happened to me, I won't ever get over it!  I want Jackson here!!  I want Lily here too!!  Why did this have to happen to me?!!!"

But still, "I have been living life so normally these past few weeks, going out and being social and getting things done, losing Jackson couldn't have been that hard if I am out of bed at all...it must not be a huge thing?!?"

And the worse one, "No one wants to be around a sad, bereaved mom.  They all want you to move on already.  Just do it."

I'm trying to find some sort of middle ground between these two state of beings.  Extreme, painful grief, and get-the-heck-over-it-already.  I know that I am putting all the expectations and pressure on myself.  No one is making me feel like I have to get over this fast, or move on or stop talking about it.  It's all in my own mind.  But I am scared of the day when someone may say "move on" or be annoyed that I am so sad or dazed, or they forget that what has happened to be has changed me permanently.  I don't want people to tiptoe around me, but I also want people in the world to be compassionate in general in situations like mine, for the sake of all bereaved moms out there.  Creating awareness and breaking silence and hopefully helping people is a big part of my grief work.  I wish I could do more.  I thought about just parking at the hospital at random times and praying for any woman in there that could be going through the same thing.  If there are any, I wish I could talk to them.  Sit with them.  Cry with them.  It wouldn't ever be enough.  20 babies.  UCMC says out of the 1000 babies they deliver every year, 20 of us will walk out of the hospital without our child.  That doesn't include miscarriages either, only moms that have to give birth.  20.  So 19 other women have or will endure this pain this year and I have to help them, somehow!

I do grief work in other ways too.  Normal things are now part of grief work.  I cook new things, or write in a journal about my thoughts or questions or fears or particular feelings, I get on Pinterest, I plan things for the house, I paint my nails, etc.  Each thing that I do, I think about Jackson, I think about my sadness and feeling of loss and work towards it, giving each activity meaning and depth and getting some happiness out of it all.  I'm not sure if that makes much sense, but there it is.  My whole life revolves around doing each activity for my "angel" babies.

The truth is, that each day that goes by doesn't take me further away from Jackson and Lily.  Each day that goes by gets me closer to them.  One day, we all will be together again.  It's heartbreaking right now, that my broken family won't ever be complete.  I'll never, ever have a "complete" family photo.  But, there will be a day when we are all together and complete.  Sometimes if I am having a hard moment or hour or day or week, I think that as time moves forward, it's carrying me closer to that day.  I really can't wait for that day, but I know that God has plans for me and it's just not time yet.  I wonder what is in store for me?  What could I possibly do, after losing two babies and living with a broken heart so painful that I can't breathe, that is so important?  I can't wait to find out.

Thanks for listening:)

July 23, 2014

A choice

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I remember back when I wrote about losing our twin, about how we have a choice in how we live through our lives when bad things happen.

I still believe that, believe it or not!  Yes, we have gone through a very terrible situation.  No parent should have to say goodbye to their child, their baby, at any age or a any stage.  Does it hurt?  Oh my LORD, yes.  Has it gotten better?  Honestly?  No, it really hasn't.  The pain in my heart and head, the pain that squeezes my chest so hard every morning when I wake up and all day as I think about Jackson, that hasn't gotten better at all.

But you know what?  I have gotten stronger.  You know when you work out really hard, and you really want to die because it hurts or its too hard, but you push through it and at the end of it all, you feel proud of yourself because you made it through?  You can tell your body is stronger, still hurting, but stronger?  I feel like that at the end of the day.  Every day.  I'm proud of myself for making it through another day without my pregnancy, without my baby swimming in there, without Jackson.  My body is put through a kind of hell every day, but I beat it and I endure it and at the end of the day I am still here and I am proud of myself.

I read stories of women who have endured a pregnancy loss all the time.  I do find that reading about woman who have gone through it helpful.  But sometimes, I come across some stories that worry me. These women are bitter, and scared, and after 3 or 5 or 10 years they are still so broken hearted.  Too afraid to move on.  To afraid to try again for another baby, a rainbow.  Of course, I understand them!  Could I be that way?  Absolutely?  Do I want to?  No way.

Again, I think we have a choice in this matter.  We can't undo it.   Nothing I do will ever bring Jackson back to me.  Nothing I do will change how time has unwound in my life, our lives.  It just happened.  Nothing will change that.  But I have a choice!!!  Could I lay in bed everyday, totally heartbroken, refuse to eat or shower, and be a hermit?  Oh, that would be so, so easy.  That may even be the easy way out!!  Do I have a good excuse?  Heck yes I do.

But do I want that?  No.  I want a life.  I want to live.  I know that getting out of bed and just going downstairs to make coffee is a victory!  I know that going to the grocery store is a win!  I know that seeing my family and friends, and going on vacation and actually having a good time, and all of that normal stuff is me punching death in the stupid face!  You can NOT and will NOT bring me down.

Some days are still harder than others.  Even on vacation.  Last week in OBX there was a night where I got in bed and I just sobbed uncontrollably.  Shaking, painful, sobs.  Poor Dave, he thought I was mad at him, and he asked what was wrong.  I think he knew after a bit, when I couldn't calm down.  But he makes me say it.  It's so hard to do.  It's so hard to admit and get out, when usually I am strong and doing well.  I miss Jackson, I want him here with me.  Of course, Dave knows.  He misses him too.  He, my parents, you (probably) just want to take the intense pain away from me.  It makes it hard for them to see me in such agony.  I tell him, there is not a minute where I don't feel this way.  I am just strong enough now not to show it.  It's always the answer to the question, "What is wrong?"  Always.

I do ok most of the days now, I really do.  But it still happens.  I let it come and take over my body for a few minutes, or hours, and I let myself cry and shake and get snot all over the place, and then I gather it all up and let it go.  I choose to walk away from the grief.  I feel it, and I journey through it, and I let myself think of all the things that could be and would be if life were different, and I feel it, and then I tell it to get out.  I'm done.

This strength that I feel is from Jesus, I am sure of it.  The women that I read about that can't seem to get passed this, I pray for them.  Maybe they don't allow Jesus to come and walk this road of grief with them.  I know that without Him, I am not strong enough.  It's just not physically or emotionally possible to get through something like this without Him!!  I am human.  I am not strong.  But in Him I am, and that makes me feel joy again, it makes me proud, and so humble and thankful that he is carrying me through this.  See those footprints in the sand up there?  I took that picture last week at the beach and thought of that Footprints poem.  When I see those prints, I don't see mine, those are His.  He is truly carrying me through this time.

I listened to Hillsong's Oceans (Where feet may fail) a lot last week.  I sat on the beach so much, watching the sunrise or the sky over the ocean as it set.  The water does something to my soul that I can't quite explain.  Anyways, this song is one of the most beautiful songs ever, but right now as I walk through this grief, it means so much more to me.  There is a part of this beautiful song that she repeats over and over...

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

That first part where she talks about trust without borders....oh man.  I get that!  I get it!!  My trust in God has to be without borders.  Even though we've lost a baby, no wait...TWO babies, I still need to trust in Him!  No matter what we go through, what life throws our way, we need to trust.  No, God doesn't want this stuff to happen to us, but He gets us through it and knows that I am strong enough in Him to endure it.  He uses things like this to speak to my and my heart and my soul and hopefully He will use it to reach other people through us, somehow.  He will use Jackson to bring glory to Him!  Somehow!  He is taking me deeper than my feet could ever wander right now.  My feet are failing!  I know my faith is being made stronger too.  Without borders...no matter what happens, we still need to trust God.  

That is beautiful and terrible all at the same time.  Because once you realize that, you realize how fragile life is.  You realize how easily it can all change in such a quick moment.  You realize you are not immune to sadness and sickness and tragedy in this life, just because you have faith.  Faith doesnt work that way.  It doesn't keep you from losing a baby.  But you know what?  God will get me through it.  If I continue to trust Him in difficult times, no matter what and without borders, well...who knows what will happen but it will probably be good.  Maybe even amazing.  

As I was in the throws of severely painful contractions early that Thursday morning, contractions the docs said I would probably never feel, I heard a voice.  I am serious.  This voice, with no doubt of whom it belonged to, kept saying this over and over to my pain...

Your blessings will be abundant.  Your blessings will be abundant.  Your blessings will be abundant.

It gave me some comfort in the pain.  But I remember saying to the voice that I didn't want the blessings.  I wanted the pain to go away.  I wanted my baby to be alive.  I wanted to go home and forget this happened.  It was breaking my body and my spirit and my heart all at the same time.  But that voice helped me through.  It helps me through now.  I remember having glimpses of life with those abundant blessings during the pain, images that flashed through my mind as it was being whispered to me...images of me getting through the grief, and of loving Dave, and being with my family, and holding a happy, healthy baby.

Who knows.  It could have been all the pain medication giving me hallucinations, but I know that isn't it.  I know that voice, and my heart knows who it belongs to.  My blessings are abundant and will be.  No, it doesn't take away the pain, or change the past that I wish so desperately would change, but there are still blessings in a life with grief.  They are more evident too.  I trust Him and I trust myself to continue to make the choice of moving forward, not backward, as much as I possibly can. I choose that life!  And I trust my God no matter what happens.

Trust without borders...

July 11, 2014

Life goes on

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I am humbled by the amount of friends, family, and complete strangers that have dropped in to read about Jackson and our story with him.  I can't thank you enough for giving us the time!  I write this blog more for myself, and him, than anyone else.  It helps me process what has happened to us, and it helps me heal.  But it's nice to know that others care about us and want to know about him, even though his life was so short.  So I really appreciate you stopping by, it means so much to me!!!

There is more to his story, two more parts in fact, of the whole birth process, but it's so hard for me to get the courage to write about the rest.  The first part was the easiest part.  I'm just not ready to write about the other parts.  Not just yet.

Life has been propelling forward, in this life after loss.  Tomorrow, July 12th, marks exactly one month since Jackson's birth day.  Today, marks one month since his death.

Isn't that strange?  Jackson died before he was born.  His date of death preceeds his date of birth.  It's not supposed to be like that!  But it is, and that is life.

I honestly can't believe that I have lived through a whole month since then?!  Not that I was planning on dying, but again...it's amazing to me that loss and a broken heart can't kill you instantly.  I feel strong in some ways, and so very weak in other ways.

I'm not even sure what I have done in the past month?  I know there have been some days where I couldn't get out of bed, but not as many as I thought there would be.  I've read some books, 12 to be honest.  Reading has helped me lose myself in other worlds and forget about mine for a while, it's like sleeping.  I get to be somewhere else, just for a little bit.  I've started taking care of the house again, cleaning and cooking and organizing.  It feels ok...maybe even good...to be an active part of my life again.  I've started seeing friends again, and going out to be in public.  I'm still working on talking on the phone...why is that so hard for me?

My life seems to have been dissected by Jackson's birth and death.  I find myself saying things like "pre baby" or "post baby".  I'm having a hard time remembering details of life before, or when we talk about something that has happened in the past, it's hard for me to place if it was pre or post.  Time means something completely different to me now.  I am different now.

Some people will go their whole lives without one of these tragic events happening to them.  Their lives go on a normal course, births and deaths, all happening at time that they should.  There are no epic game changers that they have to live through.  It makes me wonder, why us?  Why do we have to go through this terrible thing?  What is the purpose of it all?  It is because we need to be shaken?  It is because we are supposed to share with the world?  It is because I am supposed to help others get through this later?  I am determined to find something to DO with it all, because I can't go back to my old and naive life.  I am just not the same person.  As I thought, some things are settling back into place, but there is this whole new part of me - this hole where my baby should be - that I have to live around.  I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it!  What should I do with it?  About it?

This has to be lived through.  It won't magically go away.  So I'm still moving through it, one hour, one day, sometimes one minute, at a time.  And time has been passing, faster than I thought it would. There goes the world again, moving on when I feel that I can't.  But I do, I look back and see that I am moving forward.

We have to plan a memorial of some sort.  We didn't want to host a "funeral", with a body and a casket, or anything like that.   We decided that we would do something special for him, but not something that was overly sad and depressing.  Baby funerals are overly sad and depressing.  I want it to be a celebration, of his life and his love and his impact on our world.  Originally I wanted to do the sky lanterns, and we may still do that, but there are a lot of risks with that, as much as I love them (hello, Tangled?!?)  We may do a balloon release, that could be sweet and definitely safer.  I thought about buying part of the moon and naming it after him, or naming a star...there are so many ways to honor and love him, and as my mind settles on things I'm sure we will figure out the best way.  I'm open to ideas, if you have something.

I wish I didn't have to deal with it at all, honestly, but I know that I should.  Jackson, and his sister for that matter, deserve to be remembered.

I'm looking forward to being at the beach.  Our family vacations usually consist of Disney.  Busy vacations with tons of plans and schedules and things to do.  This year, because I was pregnant, we decided we probably shouldn't do a crazy trip like that.  So we choose the Outer Banks.  It's been 10 years since either of us have been, and I am happy to go back.  My parents are coming too, and Ashley is bringing her little sister (half-sister) as well.

Everyone is excited.  I am trying to get to that point.  There was a whole list of things that I couldn't do on the trip before, like jet ski or ride a bike or drink...all things I can do now. I'd rather have my baby with me, but I'll look for the silver linings when I have to.

We've rented a little house in Nags Head, about a block away from the beach, and we are close by the club house with a huge pool and a bar.  We seem to be right in the middle of fun stuff like mini golf and restaurants and shopping.  It should be a really good time - good for my soul!  I need things that are good for my soul, and I am looking forward to spending some alone time with God on the beach every morning.  I think He may help me figure this whole mess of a life out;)

I wanted to share a few resources that have helped me immensely in this past month.  If you are interested in reading more stories like mine, or need the help yourself because your life has taken this terrible turn, these are great places to start.  Reading about other women who have been through this, lived through it, have had rainbows babies and are actually doing well and are happy - it all has been so, so good for me.  There's that hope again.  And you know I refuse to lose hope!!  So here you go, find some hope:

Still Standing Online Magazine

Reconceiving Loss

Still Birthday

Return to Zero

Within these links you'll find more moms, more blogs, about life after a stillbirth.  These women are strong and incredible and honest.  They have helped me so much!

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  We still appreciate the prayers and love and good thoughts, because we still need them so much!

Oh and a few friends have asked if they can share my blogs, or our stories, with friends or Facebook or email, and my answer is of course!  Share and talk!  There is a huge silence around this topic, because no one wants to hear it or think about it, but it helps those of us who have lost a baby find each other, and it helps us heal.  It helps moms who know they will have to say goodbye learn they are not alone.  So please, by all means, share as you wish!

Love :)

July 7, 2014

Your Story: Part 1

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Dear Jackson,

I'm not sure how much of the story I will be able to get through at this time.  But I want to try.  I'm afraid that as time passes, the memory of how you came into the world may fade.  Even though you were already gone.  I really want to tell your story.  As terrible as it was, I don't want to forget a single moment of it.  While it was terrible it was also beautiful.  That sounds so weird and morbid, but because my sharpest memories of you, and with you, were during that time, it was beautiful it a way.

Of course, our story together started way back in the winter.  I've written about those happy times, about the time I found out about how I was going to be a mom.  The time I shared that news with your father.  The time we learned that you were sharing your precious but eventually treacherous space with your twin sister.  The time we found out your sister was gone...those stories have all been shared.  But your story, maybe the most important one of my life, still sits inside my heart.  I want to protect it.  But I also need to get it out of me...

The story of your death and your birth starts on Tuesday June the 10th.  You were officially 21 weeks old as an inhabitant of my belly.  I felt fine all that day!  I went to work, I taught two different lessons to my graduating 5th graders about the transitions they would be facing in middle school.  I cleaned my office.  I hung out with my work friends.  We were all excited because it was the 3rd to last day of school.  There was a fun sort of buzz in the air all over school!  Summer was here!!

I picked up your Grandad after school, he needed a ride to pick up their car after it was finished with an oil change.  He always asked me how you were doing, how I was feeling.  He asked as soon as he got in the car...we were doing great!  After I dropped him off, I drove over to the hospital to drop off my Leave of Absence paperwork, in preparation for our time together after what was supposed to be your birth in October.  Isn't that ironic?  Little did I know I'd be back in a few short hours.  Little did I know I wouldn't need those papers filled out after all...

I came home and cooked dinner for your father, a new recipe from Pioneer Woman (my fave, you know!) something with chicken and pasta and spinach.  Your dad and I ate dinner casually, sitting on the couch, talking and laughing like usual.  Your big sister was at her moms for the week.  I was thinking about all the things I may be able to get done that night, since dad was going to work, and the house would be quiet.

A few times during the day that Tuesday, when I went to the bathroom (I had to pee a lot with you!!!  Probably 20 times every day!!) I had noticed some fluid there, but I didn't think anything of it.  You were a complicated little thing, and had been announcing your arrival for a month, although I'm sorry to say, no one really recognized it for what it was.  When I went to the bathroom after dinner, it was there again.  No worries, I told you.  We had been dealing with this "leak" of whatever it was since April.  The doctors told us not to worry, and they are usually right with that sort of thing.  Plenty of women bleed or leak something throughout pregnancy and it's usually nothing.  They had done all sorts of tests and exams on you and me, and nothing terrible had showed up yet!  I got used to telling myself, and you, that we were going to be fine.  I was just starting to believe it myself!

Your dad went upstairs to get ready for work, and I followed him.  I was just a little tired, and thought maybe I would sneak in a nap before getting started on whatever I was planning on doing that night.  I thought about cleaning, or clearing out some books in your nursery - we had a lot of work to do in there!  I was so excited to started working on your room, cleaning and painting and doing all those things that I love.  Maybe I would do that later.  But first, I wanted to rest.  As I got into bed, I felt a gush of something leave me.

Again, no worries, I thought to myself.  I've had these gushes before, it was just my body cleaning out the clot.  No worries, right?  I got up to go to the bathroom to check everything out, and as I walked, I felt it pop.  There was no mistaking this.  It was like a full water balloon has burst.  It wasn't blood.  Oh, how I wished it would have been blood!  That sounds gross, but at this point, a gush of blood was much less dangerous then this water that was coming out of me!

I screamed as I ran past your father into the bathroom.  "Something is WRONG, Dave!!!  Something is really really wrong!"

Your father, always calm and optimistic when it came to you and me, assured me it was ok.  We had been through this, right?  Wrong!   I told him.  This was different.  This was water.  Fluid.  I had read tons of things about giving birth to you, I read all about amniotic fluid and water breaking and I was sure this was it.  It was fluid.  And at this point in your life, fluid was not a good thing.  You were only 21 weeks.  You would not survive if I went into labor...

"Call the doctor and see what they say.  Don't freak out until we know for sure.  I'm sure he's ok!"  Dad called in to me.

God, I wish I could have been so sure.  Your father had so much faith in you, in us, and I really wanted to feel that way too.  But that wouldn't have helped anything.  We called the doctor, and when we finally got a hold of someone about an hour later, she told me to come right into the birth center.  As soon as possible.

I was a mess.  Why did this keep happening to us?  Why couldn't my body just hold on to you, and help you grow into a healthy baby boy?  I was terrified, and tired of being examined and poked and prodded.  I knew it was all for a good cause, and I would have kept on doing it for you, no problem.  But I wished it was easier, for your sake, and selfishly for mine.  I hate doctors, and hospitals, and so far this whole pregnancy had been terrible as far as that goes!  But believe me, you were totally worth it!

Dad called out of work, and drove me up to the hospital.  We got into triage and I started assuming the worse.  They questioned me about everything, and then did the exam.  I told them that I was sure my water broke, what else could it be?  Our doc decided she would to do a test that would show whether I was leaking fluid or not.  But first, we had to see how you were doing.  The triage nurse pulled out the Doppler, a machine I had grown to dread in that triage room, because I was afraid of what it would tell me.  She put the wand on my belly and fumbled around for a good minute.  It was always a little hard to find you.  I coached her and told her that usually, I could find you right underneath my belly button.  We rented a Doppler for the house and had been in the habit of listening in on you every other night or so.

I loved that part of being your mom, by the way.  I loved listening to that beautiful heart of yours!!!  It was so much less stressful listening to you at home, and so much sweeter.  Who knew that strong heart of yours had so few numbered beats.

The nurse took my advice and tried finding you right under my belly button.  Silence.  The doc left to get the ultrasound machine, which was not a good sign at all.  But, just as she was wheeling the big machine in...

whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!!!

There you were!!  Your heart was beating so strong and so fast, and I was crying all over again.  The doc decided to do the ultrasound anyways, and you came up on the screen.  We could see your heart flickering, and you were moving around, and you were ok!!!  Perfect!!!

That was the last time we saw you alive.

The doc did the fluid test.  It fooled us.  It came back negative.  It wasn't my water breaking, it said.  The doc told us that the ultrasound they have there wasn't all that clear.  She could tell that there was still fluid around you, but she couldn't tell how much.  She really wanted me to come back the next day, to the office, so they could do a proper one and see what was going on.  She thought maybe the fluid coming out of me was part of the hemorrhage - maybe it was trapped inside the dried up clot and as you grew, you were pushing it out.  That night, it seemed that you were healthy.  The fluid test was negative, and while that's not always 100% accurate, that was a good sign.  They hooked me up to the contraction machine and kept me for a few hours, and I didn't start contracting.  That was a good sign!

I wasn't sure about it all, because I was there.  That was a lot of fluid that came out of me.  But what do I know?  I've never been pregnant before.  Maybe it wasn't so much after all?

Why couldn't we have just known then?  Why did we have to be put through the agony of a whole extra night, thinking we had once again just had a hiccup and that's all?  If we would have stayed, could we have done something different?  Could the docs have saved you, if they knew?  Should I have insisted for something else to be done?  To be checked?  I didn't know anything.

I try not to focus on these questions, Jackson.  Because I know, nothing could have saved you for this Earth.  Jesus wanted you to come home.  For whatever reason, you had already, in your very short life, fulfilled your purpose.  What an honor that must be, because most of us have to go through a very long and hard life, full of trials and tribulations, to fulfill our purpose in Christ.  Not you, you were so little and perfect, and did whatever it was that you were meant to do.  Then, somewhere between that night and 11:15 the next morning, Jesus called you Home.

They let us leave the birth center that evening, with the expectation we would be back very early the next day for more tests.  We came home, your father called my mom, your grandmother, who you would have called "Janou" after the movie Affair to Remember.  Janou (a French word - pronounced jsha-new) also had a lot of faith in us, she called you her "peanut bean" and she loved you very much already!  Anyways, your dad and her talked about what happened, she kept saying that we would be ok.  That you would be ok!  I just cried and cried.  I got in the shower, and held you in my belly, and told you how much I loved you and how I was desperately hoping you would be ok.  I promised you that I wanted you, I wanted to be able to be your mom, and I wanted you to be healthy, and I would do anything for you, if you would just stay.  You were very loved, little boy.  You still are!

I got into bed.  I couldn't stop crying.  I swear my heart, and my body, and you...all knew what was happening.  Your father kept telling me to relax, that it wasn't good for you to be this stressed.  Everything would be fine.  I told him I was just so so scared.  He assured me that he believed in his heart that we didn't get this far, through all of this drama, just to lose you.  I remember very clearly telling him:

"I am scared that Jesus thinks that I can handle losing him...that I would be strong enough.  But I don't want to be strong enough for that.  I want our baby."  Your father just held me.

Somewhere in the night, I did rest.  I slept.  I held you the best I could, all night.  I hope that when you did leave me, leave us, you felt how much you were loved...and how much we really wanted you to stay.

That's about all I can say about your story right now.  I think it would be good to break your story down into the days - because I think I can handle it better that way...

I miss you.  I wish, so badly, that your story ended differently than what it did.  At least, for that night, I believe you were still there as I drifted to sleep.  Maybe you were waiting for me to be at peace so you could slip away.  I went to sleep knowing that your heart had been beating not so long ago...beautiful and strong.

Love you, Jackson.  Wish you were here...or wish I was there.  I wish we were together!

July 5, 2014

A beautiful memory

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If you were to ask me what my favorite memory of my pregnancy was, I would probably tell you that it was just a mere 9 days before my world stopped turning.

Tuesday, June 2nd was a day I was dreading for weeks.  I was also excited.  But it was more dread.  After the loss of our twin at 8 weeks, and the subchorionic hemorrhage, I knew too well that things can go wrong in pregnancy.  June 2nd was the day of our anatomy scan.  The scan that would tell us if something was wrong, or if everything was right.   The scan that would tell us if we were having a boy or a girl.  We never did any of the testing early in pregnancy, the tests that show the "probability" of something going wrong, because I couldn't put myself through that.  Also, I knew it wouldn't change anything.  If there was something wrong, I wouldn't terminate the pregnancy.  I didn't see the point in getting myself all anxious for a "probability" of something bad happening.  I know myself all to well, I'd focus on the negative part of that.

I remember people asking me that day, "aren't you excited??!" and my honest answer was "no".  I didn't really tell them that though, my robot answer was, "oh yes I can't wait."  I had gone to work that morning, just to keep my mind off everything, and left around noon to meet Dave and head down to St. Joe's.  We had decided to have our scan there because we heard from a few people it's a better experience.  I remember walking into the hospital and sitting in the waiting room and Dave saying his usual, "everything is going to be fine."  I was on the edge of my seat.  I felt sick.

What if this would be the time they couldn't find a heart beat?

What if something was seriously wrong with the baby?

Would I be walking out of here in an hour, crying?  Or would we be happy?

It's like I knew, I knew, something was coming.  I could feel it.

It just wasn't June 2.  Not on this day.

We were called back and our tech was so nice, she spent a lot of time with us and said she would talk us through everything that was happening.  She also said that sometimes she would have to concentrate and go quiet, and not to worry if that happened.   She asked if we wanted to know the gender, we said yes!  She scanned and scanned, for 45 minutes.  She had to practically put me on my head to get a good look at the baby, who was so squirmy!!  We saw the head and the arms and legs and the baby did a full somersault in my belly more than a few times.  It was amazing.  Then, out of no where, she said, "This baby is a boy!!"

A boy!!  We were having a baby boy!  Dave was as happy as ever, squeezing my arm and kissing my head and just ecstatic.  I remember asking him, "are you happy I am giving you a son?"  With a big smile on my face.  "SO happy!" he answered.

The tech left to go get the doctor, at St. Joe's doc name Kataco, the very same doctor actually, who would tell us 9 days later, that our son was gone.  She came in and said everything looked great.  She wanted me to come back in 3 weeks or so, to check on that hemorrhage and make sure it was shrinking, but it looked all dried up at that point.  She said the heart looked healthy, but they were having trouble measuring it because he was moving around so much.  These are things they have a lot of moms come back for, and her words were "Everything is just fine.  It's routine.  We just need the measurements."  I relaxed.  Routine.  No problems.  It's a boy.  I could finally be excited for this baby.  We were past 20 weeks.  What could go wrong, right?

Dave and I left St. Joe's on a cloud.  I called my mom, because she had texted me and called me 3 different times, just to tell her everything was good and healthy with the baby!  I had to text 10 different friends and family - all who knew how nervous I was, all who knew the problems that we had had, all who were praying that everything would be just perfect.  Dave & I were throwing a small gender reveal party that evening at our house, with just our families.  So we raced home to start getting ready for that.

Oh how much fun we had that afternoon!  We refused to tell Ashley if she was getting a brother or a sister, not until everyone was together.  We joked with her and pretended to let it slip.  We banished her to her room while I filled the cupcakes with icing.  I remember whispering to Frodo, ever so quietly, "You are getting baby brother!"  I had fun decorating the house.  Everything was pink and blue.  I couldn't wait.


Finally, around 7pm, our family showed up.  Almost all at once.  My parents, my brother and SIL, Dave's mom and her boyfriend, and Dave's grandparents.  We hugged and chatted and everyone sat down and I asked, "Ok.  Are you guys ready?"  I remember my mom looking like she was ready to burst.  She couldn't wait any longer!  Dave and I handed out the cupcakes and told everyone that the icing in the middle was the clue, and they had to bite into it to find out.  

What a mess!  Everyone was ripping into the cupcakes.  I didn't get any pictures of that part.  Maybe that was meant to be.  All at once people starting cheering or yelling, "Ohhhhhh!"  and "Oh my gosh, its a B--" but then stopped in case someone hadn't seen yet.  Finally, I just said, "Ok we can just yell it all together!"  and everyone yelled, "ITS A BOY!!!"  We called Dave's brother and his wife, and face timed with them as we told them  - they were equally excited.  A boy!

Our families got up to hug us.  I remember my dad, he had tears in his eyes.  Tears!!!  He was so happy that we were having a boy.  His grandson.  I asked my mom if she was disappointed, I knew she wanted a girl, because of the "clothes"...girl clothes are so much cuter, in her opinion.  Of course not, she said.  She was so happy for us.  Jonathan and my dad started talking colleges, and where he would go and which team he would play for (Notre Dame of course) and how the baby would be born into a legacy of fall Saturdays screaming at the TV and oh, shouldn't I play the ND fight song as he was born?  But, whatever you do, don't go into labor on a Saturday in October!!!  I was due October 21st, and I had a feeling that he would come on a Saturday, just to spite everyone.  He was part O'Leary, you know!

For the first time in forever, I was genuinely excited for this baby.  I thought I had passed some magic threshold, where all would be ok from here on out.  I had even said to people how stressful the first 5 months were, and that I was hoping that the last half of my pregnancy would be great.  I could just relax and enjoy growing and being pregnant.  I was happy.  I was giving my family, our families, such a special gift - a baby boy!!  It was the happiest I had felt in a long, long time.  Our baby was ok.

That happy, pregnant girl...she had no clue.  Well, maybe she did.  But she didn't want to think about it.  I wouldn't ruin it for her.  If I could go back in time, I wouldn't tell her that a week later, that very next Tuesday, her water would break.  I wouldn't tell her that her world was about to be turned upside down.  That her heart was about to be smashed as her baby's heart stopped beating.  No, I wouldn't tell her because even if I did, in the name of helping her do something different or trying to save him, it wouldn't have mattered.  Because God was going to call him Home, for whatever reason, and if everyone praying for me to have a healthy baby couldn't change that, then me warning that girl wouldn't help either.  It sucks and it's heartbreaking and no bereaved mom wants to hear this, but it was...it was meant to be.  There is nothing we could have done to save him.

No.  I'd let her have her night.  Her one, pure stress free night, where everything seemed to be ok and she thought she had a happy and healthy baby growing inside her and where she thought all her stress and heartache was over.  It was a great night.  I am happy I had that evening.  I went to sleep, hands on my belly, thanking God and the baby for such a great day.  I remember feeling like I could get through anything.

As all the events of the next week unfolded, I thought about that night a lot.  How I was so happy to have that special memory.  At first I thought I was cheated, because I don't have a lot of memories with Jackson.  But then I realized, I do have tons of memories with him!  He wasn't born yet, no, but he was here.  He was with me for 5 whole beautiful months.  We made lots of memories together.  That night was the first time that most of his whole family was in the same room together, celebrating him.  It was special, and I am glad we have that last beautiful memory.

July 2, 2014

Glorious Unfolding

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A wonderful friend said that she heard this song today and thought of us and I just had to share.  This song is just what we needed today.  Isn't is amazing how God shows up like that?  Thank you, Blythe, for giving us that gift:)

Click here for the you tube version to hear it...

Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman
Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Of this glorious unfolding
We will watch and see and we will be amazed
If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over
And hold on to every promise God has made to us
We’ll see the glorious unfolding

Just watch and see (unfolding)
This is just the beginning of the beginning (unfolding)

Good grief

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Grief is a terrible friend to have these days.  Never in my life have I ever felt this terrible.  And there is nothing, nothing, that can change it.  Actually, that isn't right.  The ONLY thing that can change it is to go through it.

Journey through the pain of unfathomable loss.

What is grief like?  I am not sure I can describe it.

Grief is like a deep, deep hole.  I am stuck in the hole.  Actually I think the hole is just getting deeper and deeper.  I keep sinking in it!

Grief is like being stuck.  I am stuck in one spot.  Everyone around me, even my family, has started moving again.  Everyone and everything keeps getting further away from me.  The world still revolves.  The sun still comes up everyday.  There is still a beautiful blue sky this summer, and winds that keep blowing over me...everything keeps moving forward.  But not me.  I am just stuck.  I want to scream at the top of my lungs, "HELLO?!?!  STOP!!!"  My heart is so, so broken, why is the world still moving??

Grief is not wanting to be separated from the pain.  Because to be "ok" means that I am separated from him.  I can't get better because doesn't that mean I will have forgotten him?  I can't ever forget him.  I don't want to be separated from him anymore than I am already forced to.  And you know, the separation between us is so wide...I feel that I am going to drown in it.

Grief is like drowning.  You feel like you can't ever get the air you need to live.

Grief is knowing that I have no choice but to move forward in life.  I have to live on.  The world does keep moving, and I am forced to go with it!  It pulls me, sometimes very unwillingly, away from that day, away from him.

Of course, I grieve for Baby A, Lily, as well.  But sometimes the pain is just reserved for Jackson, because I knew him well, felt him moving in my belly, and saw his sweet little face and body, and every single one of my hopes and dreams was just for him.  Mainly because I never knew about Lily, and then she was gone.  I never had time to dream about her.  That is where my sadness starts for her...

Anyways, grief is not a very good friend.  But I have learned so much about it in this past 3 weeks.  I learned that even when your heart has been ripped from you, you can still live.  It seems inhumane at first, that you can actually to live without your heart, but it is possible.

God fills in for your heart for a while, and then, slowly, it grows back.  I remember those first few days where I just couldn't feel life...it felt so cruel that the pain didn't kill me.   Not the same pain of child birth, no...as painful as it was for me, I'd go through that again.  I'd go through it everyday, instead of the feelings that came after.  I couldn't feel anything but this weird, excruciating but hollow pain that came from the core of who I am.  It washed over me and held me hostage and I couldn't see, I couldn't breathe.   You can live through that, you know.  I am proof.

That pain hasn't gone away.  I'm not sure it ever will?  But it's true, what "they" say about grief.  You learn to live around it.  Each day that goes by gets a little easier, somehow.  I pray everyday.  I pray that God helps me live through each moment, helps me get out of bed, and do normal things, all the while still feeling the pain, I give it to Him constantly.  Every hour.  Sometimes every minute.  After a while, I can look back and see that it helps.  I think, "hey, I am still here!!" and it's a miracle.  It's a miracle that the pain of losing a baby doesn't actually kill you.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to die.  Of course not!  I am just in awe of the ability to feel so much emotional and mental and spiritual and physical pain, no...agony, all at once and still be standing.  The human body is a miracle.  God getting me through something like this, is a true miracle.

I remember reading about a few stories of stillbirth, before all this happened.  I remembered thinking how strong those moms seemed, and how I couldn't imagine going through something like that and then sharing it, reliving it, and moving on with life.  Now I totally understand them.  We want our babies to be remembered.  We want their stories, their lives, to be heard and felt.  We want to help other moms get through it.  Remember, it's a special club that no one wants to be a part of, but when you join it, you just HAVE to do something about it.  It helps.

I read somewhere that refusing to read sad stories about stillbirth doesn't keep it from happening to you.  It can happen.  Whether you read about it or not.  Some moms skip over that chapter in our "What to expect" books.  I read the whole thing.  I remember thinking, "yeah...that is true.  I am not immune.  I need to read about it because it could happen to me, and if it does, this could help me be ready."  So I am very thankful that read I about the "what could happens" and the stories, this one in particular (WARNING!  It's sad story, sort of like mine, and she has pictures.)

In a way, doing that reading ahead of time has helped me on this side of things.  Life is not always butterflies and rainbows, you know.  Reading about it all, before this whole thing happened, helped me learn that we can't go through life thinking we have a "get out of jail free" card for tragedy.  There is no that-can't-happen-to-us bubble.  I've learn to appreciate life NOW, and be content with what I have NOW, because lightening can strike twice, loved ones do die, car accidents happen, babies are born still...bad things do happen. And I am not immune.  Even now, I am still not immune.

What helps me through my grief?  There are a TON of things that do help, and I am so thankful for each and every one of them...

Jesus.  I can't imagine walking through this terrible valley without Him.  He reminds me that there is HOPE, and that I can live through this sadness, and that He will be my strength when I am not strong, He will carry me through it when I am too tired.  If you are going through something like this, and don't have Jesus, email me and I will help you.  It'll be the best thing you EVER choose to do.  I promise!

Dave.  My husband is amazing. Sure, he is going through his own thing, but he is much stronger than I am.  He makes sure I get up, and makes sure I eat, and reminds me that I can't hide from life forever.  He cooks, and cleans, and drives me around, and takes care of Ashley...because honestly I can't do much of that right now.  He is my life!

My family.  They check on me, and get me out to eat or to shop or swim.  They grieve with me and tell me it's ok to be sad.  Love them.

Friends.  My friends that have texted me, or called me and left messages (it's still so hard to talk on the phone...I will call ALL of you back, soon!) or left cards or dinners or gift cards.  Friends who have sent flowers, or wine, or just sweet words of love and encouragement.  Friends that invite me over to be creative and get in touch with my deeper self.  You help me, so much, on this journey to life after loss.

Big Bang Theory.  Because it makes me laugh, a lot.  It's comforting.  Thanks Sheldon;)

Summer time.  I wish this didn't have to happen and darken my sunny days, but at least I don't have to miss work, or worry about going back just yet and facing everyone.  I have a good long stretch of built-in leave to grieve and heal.  And the sunny days do help!  I can sit out on my deck and soak up warmth and sun and sometimes it feels ok that the world is still standing, even though I am not.  Thank you Jesus, your timing is always perfect, no matter the situation.

Writing.  Thanks for letting me rant and cry and grieve right here, in front of all of you!

Other things that help?  Chocolate, wine, shopping, FRODO, Harry Potter (I read all 7 of them in about a week, right after we got home), reading in general, looking at the sky, making my bed, hot baths, chicken soup, Bounotempos, shopping and Pinterest. So many things that do help me feel happy again.  Well, I don't know about happy, it may be too soon for happy, but better.  All these things help me feel better.

Some things about me are coming back around.  I can see myself again, I can feel my dreams and goals coming back.  It's slow, but it's happening.  I'm starting to plan my projects for the house this summer.  DIYing and cleaning, and painting...I LOVE doing that stuff!!  I was even able to steam clean the carpet in the hallway and the "nursery" today.  Just because we aren't having a baby anymore, doesn't mean those carpets shouldn't get cleaned, right?!?!  And you know what?  One day we WILL have a baby to live in that room, and the carpet wont smell on that day;)

No, the grief doesn't go away.  As they say in "The Fault in Our Stars"...

Pain demands to be felt.

Well, I am feeling it.  Grief is the price of love.  If we love, we know that at some point, we may lose.  I'd rather love and grieve, instead of not loving at all, you know what I mean?  I love Jackson.  And I love Lily.  And my love for them has changed me.  They made me a MOM!  That is happy, and wonderful.  And my grief is the price of that.  But I'll pay it.  And I'll learn to live with it.  I'll let Jesus get me through it when it's hard, and it will get hard, but I will get through it.

I refuse to live here in the grief.  I refuse to dwell in it.  I refuse to let it take over my life or take away my hope.